Researchers study the science of 'unfriending' on Facebook

DENVER - The University of Colorado at Denver conducted two studies that are shedding light on the process of "unfriending" on Facebook and what it means to your emotions.

The most likely person to be "unfriended" is a high school acquaintance. The most common reason for "unfriending" them is because they have posted polarized comments about religion or politics. 

Another reason was frequent and uninteresting posts. 

Click here to read the full study.

The studies were based on a survey of 1,077 people through Twitter.

The study found the top five kinds of people most likely to be "unfriended" were:

  1. High School friends
  2. Other
  3. Friend of a friend
  4. Work friends
  5. Common interest friend

Christopher Sibona, a doctoral student in the Computer Science and Information Systems program at the CU Denver Business School explained another interesting finding.

“We found that people often 'unfriend' co-workers for their actions in the real world rather than anything they post on Facebook,” Sibona said.

The second study looked at the emotions a person will experience when being "unfriended".

The most common responses to being "unfriended" were:

  1. I was surprised
  2. It bothered me
  3. I was amused
  4. I felt sad

“The strongest predictor is how close you were at the peak of your friendship when the 'unfriending' happened,” said Sibona.

Two factors in the emotions are how close the friends had been and whether the person monitored the Facebook friend closely.

The research showed that "unfriending" happens more often to friends who were once close than to those who are acquaintances.

“If you have a lot of friends on Facebook, the cost of maintaining those friendships is pretty low,” he said. “So, if you make a conscious effort to push a button to get rid of someone, that can hurt.”

The two studies were published in the 2014 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

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